12 Recommendations In-depth: #5 Eliminate ID number requirements
This is the fifth in a series of articles taking an in-depth look at each of The ECI Campaign’s 12 recommendations for building “An ECI That Works!” We’re starting with issues that need further explanation and/or greater visibility, not addressing them in numerical order.
#5 Eliminate ID number requirements
Personal identity and document numbers have created more headaches for ECI campaigners, turned more citizens off ECIs and had more negative side-effects on everything from software standards to volunteer management than any other ECI rule. In 2010, the European Data Protection Supervisor concluded that ID numbers were not needed for ECIs. Nevertheless, the ECI Regulation allows Member States to request any personal data they want. Eighteen opted to require ID numbers.
MEPs negotiating with Council in 2010 worked hard to eliminate ID numbers. They failed. But they were assured that, over the next few years, Member States would remove them on their own. Since 2012, the Commission has routinely asked national ECI coordinators to “reflect on personal data requirements”, as well as report which data they use. Yet, only one country (Luxembourg) has dropped ID requirements. Clearly, a new approach is needed.
We therefore recommend that the ECI Regulation 211/2011 be modified to include a single ECI support form for use in all Member States. It should contain name, address, nationality and potentially birth date and place. Member States requiring additional data must justify this to a neutral entity, such as their national data protection supervisor.
The Recitals section of the ECI Regulation 211/2011 includes three principles that are all currently being violated by the collection of ID numbers.
Point 2 states that ECI procedures should be user-friendly and proportionate to the nature of the ECI. Some Member States wish to collect the same data for the ECI as for national citizens’ initiatives. However, despite a similar name, they are of a different legal nature than the ECI. They can change law. ECIs only suggest issues for the EU agenda.
Point 3 requires similar conditions for supporting an ECI for all EU citizens, regardless of their Member State. Anecdotally, ECI campaigns have noted significantly more incomplete, inaccurate or aborted support statements in countries that require ID numbers vs. those that do not. This is worst in countries with identity theft problems or histories of state surveillance, such as Bulgaria and Poland. Citizens of some countries are being frightened away from the ECI!
Point 13 states that ID numbers can only be required if they are used to verify signatures. At least three countries that collect ID numbers, France, Bulgaria and Greece, admit to never using them. In at least one case, doing so would violate national data protection laws. Yet, they are still being collected!
ID numbers were the thorniest issue in negotiations between Council and Parliament on the ECI Regulation. The compromise solution, whereby Member States choose which personal data to collect and the Commission encourages them to reflect on this, has not worked. A new solution must be found that will ensure that all EU citizens are in fact treated similarly and that only data that is essential (and used) to verify signatures, as well as proportionate to the ECI’s actual legal nature, is collected.
Excerpt: “The EDPS does not see the added value of the personal identification for the purpose of verifying the authenticity of the statements of support. The other requested information can already be considered as sufficient for reaching that purpose. The EDPS therefore recommends deleting this information field from the model form.”
Countries that require identity card or personal numbers: BG, CZ, EL, ES, FR, HR, IT, CY, LV, LT, HU, MT, AT, PL, PT, RO, SI, SE
Countries that do not require ID numbers: IE, UK, EE, NL, SK, FI, BE, DK, DE, LU